Tag: Horror

Vampire Hunter D review

Director: Toyoo Ashida

Writers: Yasushi Hirano

Studio: Ashi Productions

Released: December 21, 1985

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This will be my first review where I will attempt to give a numerical score based on a number out of ten. I don’t know if I’ll stick with this system but I think it’s worth a try.

There are timeless classics, and then there are works that might have been good around the time they originally came out, but haven’t aged well overall. Vampire Hunter D is the latter.

Vampire Hunter D is an anime movie adaptation of the first novel of a long-running, popular series of post-apocalyptic/fantasy/horror novels from Japan. I haven’t read any of the books so I can’t speak for its faithfulness to its source material, but I’ve read that it is a faithful adaptation for what that’s worth if you’re a fan of the source material.
It’s a real shame that I don’t particularly care for Vampire Hunter D, because there are elements to it that are well executed. It manages to deliver a pretty heavy atmosphere, the soundtrack is decent, the unusual setting is interesting, and the designs of the monsters are creative and genuinely disturbing in appearance. The movie has a lot of potential to be something special, but alas, it doesn’t manage to reach even half of it.

The story is set thousands of years after a series of nuclear wars, the Earth has become a world filled with mutants, monsters, vampires, and other dangerous creatures. A vampire hunter only named “D” is given a contract by a young woman to kill an ancient, powerful vampire that takes young girls from a small town to his castle to be his brides every 50 years. There are a couple of side characters and villains, but none of them are interesting or well developed. Our main character D comes off less like a character and more of a plot device at times with how powerful and underdeveloped he is. As the movie goes along, it will become clear to you that nothing is really a threat to D. Oh, he might have difficulties, but they feel artificial and move along so quickly you’ll barely notice, save for one instance where you think for a moment he might actually be dead (he’s taking a long nap really). He reminded me a lot of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series in terms of demeanor and occupation: A monster hunter feared by most of the populace, loved by a few, and women will want to sleep with him just after getting to know him. The pacing to the plot is also a mess, moving too fast with some scenes feeling barely connected together, yet with some scenes just dragging on. There’s an attempt at a one sided love on the young woman who hires D that feels totally artificial thanks to the bad pacing. Lastly, while the world the movie is set in is interesting from a concept point of view, the world presented on screen feels very patched together. There’s some advanced technology, but the small town looks medieval in architecture and clothes worn by the townspeople, like a steampunk setting. It’s a unique idea, but the world comes across as artificial and not lived in at all.

The animation for the movie is the most poorly aged aspect to it. The stiff, recycled animation makes the action scenes on a technical level very weak and lacking in tension, and because the characters are so poorly developed there’s no emotional investment to the fights. We know D will win, it’s just a matter of when. The most entertaining aspect to the fights is the blood and gore, which I’ll admit can still be entertaining today. Voice acting isn’t exactly good either. Now after doing some research I found out that the English voice acting I heard was in fact a newer dubbing done by Sentai Filmworks after they got the distribution rights to the film in 2015, not the original 1992 dub from Steamline Pictures. Neither is what I’d call good, but the newer dub is better than the old one. At least the new one has some cheesy camp to it, the old one is just stilted and dull. I did listen to a bit of the Japanese voice acting and it sounded okay by today’s standards.

I’m sure there are some people with nostalgia for this movie, and it is an interesting work from a historical perspective with some redeeming value to be found, but that can’t redeem its flaws. Vampire Hunter D is just an average movie as a whole that isn’t really worth your time. If you want to see some violent, monster killing action that bad, go watch Netflix’s first season of Castlevania. Maybe the sequel will be better and it did get me interested in the original novels, so it deserves some credit.

Score: 5/10


Alien Series review

So for this October I decided to watch every single movie in the Alien franchise. What began as a sci-fi horror movie in 1979 directed by Ridley Scott has now become a massive franchise with sequels, prequels, video games, crossovers across various media, and comic books. I did not watch the Alien vs Predator movies because they are just non-canon fanservice for fans of both properties and I have not seen the Predator movies anyway.

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It’s been decades since it was first released in theaters and is still one of the best horror films ever made. The story and characters are nothing special but they’re well carried by the actors’ performances and the plot’s pacing. A crew of a commercial spaceship called the Nostromo discover a derelict alien spaceship that ends up housing a dangerous threat unlike anything ever seen. It looks better than most movies in general today thanks to excellent set design, practical effects, and Ridley Scott’s superb direction and cinematography. The eponymous Alien (Xenomorph) is still one of the most menacing horror antagonists ever because of its design (RIP H.R. Giger), and of how there is no complex explanation or backstory for its actions. It’s a predator and the crew is the prey, simple as that. Like the best horror movies, it relies on subtlety and nail-biting tension rather than jump scares and gore. A sci-fi slasher movie where the slasher is a Lovecraftian-esque monster with origins unknown to us. The only negative that drags it down is the characters not being memorable outside of our main lead Ellen Ripley, but other than that it’s still a great movie.

This movie is awesome. The sequel that surpassed the original and then some. Ripley wakes up after over fifty years of hyper sleep to discover her daughter Amanda has passed away years ago from cancer, and no one believes her story about how her crew was killed. A Xenomorph outbreak on the colony Hadley’s Hope causes her to team up with the Colonial Marines to take on her old enemy. Directed by James Cameron instead of Ridley Scott, Cameron wisely decided to take the film in an action oriented direction instead of trying to one up the original, thus creating one of the best sci-fi action movies of all time. The universe set up in the original is expanded upon more, the characters are much more memorable, Ellen Ripley cements her status as one of the best female action heroes in history, and it has the best action scenes ever. Like the first movie the story itself is nothing really special, but the characters are vastly better in this one and with Ripley becoming a surrogate mother to the child character Newt in this movie, it’s much more emotionally engaging since it’s genuinely sad to see characters get brutally killed, and extremely happy to see others make it out alive. Hicks, Newt, Hudson, Vasquez, Bishop and then some all make up the best set of characters the series has ever seen. It also has messages about the arrogance of a technologically superior force fighting a seemingly weaker enemy, which was inspired by the U.S.’s bungling of the Vietnam War, so it’s a much smarter movie than it appears to be at first glance. The lines are iconic (“Game over man! Game over!” “Get away from her you bitch!”), the special effects still look great today, it still manages to keep the nail biting tension the original movie had, and the ending has one of the best final battles in action movies ever with the Xenomorph Queen and it wraps up Ripley’s character arc perfectly. You can make other movies in the series but here is where Ripley’s character should’ve been left. Easily now in my favorite movies list, one of the best sequels ever, and the best movie in the franchise. There’s a small but vocal minority of people who hate this movie for moving away from first movie’s horror. Well be careful what you wish for because you get a new Alien movie with an emphasis on horror in the next one…

Alien 3
This is the exact opposite of Aliens. It’s one of the worst sequels ever made because instead of being exciting it’s boring, it’s a slog to get through, the characters are mostly dull and unlikable, has an bad ending and pisses on Ripley’s character. Remember Hicks and Newt? They get killed in the beginning of Alien 3, retroactively ruining the completely wonderful ending of the previous movie! I’m not against movies set after Aliens, but they should have little to do with Ellen Ripley. There are other stories you can tell, as shown with the now non-canon Dark Horse Alien comics and Alien: Isolation video game. There can be a movie about Newt grown up kicking Xenomorph ass, or another movie about the Colonial Marines, but leave Ripley alone. This movie had a notoriously troubled production and was David Fincher’s directorial debut, but not even he can salvage this boring turd. It’s the kind of horror movie that relies on shock value deaths and gore to scare its audience, which gets boring after it happens once or twice. The special effects aren’t even that good thanks to some poorly used and aged CGI, and that’s not even getting into the new prison setting being visually uninteresting with only the colors being grey and yellowish brown. Lastly, Ripley goes from being a badass who kicked Xeno ass to being terrified of the Xenomorph again, then they kill her off at the end of the movie via heroic sacrifice to end the threat once and for all. Some people say the Assembly Cut is a genuinely good movie. It’s not, so don’t watch it for your own sake.

Alien: Resurrection
Accomplishes the impressive goal of being even worse than the third movie. It takes place 200 years after Alien 3 and a new company studying the Xenomorphs clones Ripley. Yep, they didn’t even have the guts to stick with 3’s ending of her character. Even the opening credits are inferior to 3’s, and the worst of the entire series! This is the Batman and Robin of the Alien movies, with terrible acting, special effects, and a campy tone that is disrespectful to its own series. The only good things I can say about it is that its visual style is more interesting than 3’s and Ron Perlman is a blast in it, but everything else is worse. The story I hear is Joss Whedon wrote this script to try to get fired from his job, but studio executives actually took it seriously. If that’s true, then every stereotype of movie executives is pretty much justified. Another Xenomorph outbreak occurs because of corporate incompetence, but this time it’s really inexcusable. The movie takes place 200 years after Alien 3, so they should know the Xenos have acid blood, but their cages aren’t even acid proof! It’s like they wanted an accident to happen! It’s constantly pulling stuff out of its ass as the plot keeps moving that make no sense. Fuck this movie.

This is a prequel to the original movies with Ridley Scott back at the director’s helm. I don’t find it to be the masterpiece it tried to be or the ultimate betrayal of the other movies fans found it to be (Did they forget the last two movies exist?). I’m glad they finally moved on from Ripley’s character so as not to butcher it any further, so that was an automatic plus in my book. I think it has some interesting ideas but the execution left a lot to be desired. It wants to explore the origins of the Xenomorphs and of humanity in general, with an advanced race of aliens called the “Engineers” being the overall antagonists. The problem with this is that it feels torn between being a prequel and wanting to be its own movie, so none of the ideas it wants to explore feel fleshed out. Ridley Scott is still a great visual director that very few can match, and that combined with the much better CGI and special effects for this movie make it utterly beautiful at times. Everything else though, there’s a lot left to be desired. The biggest problems by far are the characters and their stupidity. These people are the dumbest group of researchers that have ever lived. The plot wouldn’t move if it weren’t for their idiotic mistakes, like a biologist approaching a strange alien creature or one of the crew members not telling the others he noticed a parasite in his eye while looking at his face in the mirror. Also, the technology is more advanced despite being a prequel to the other movies, but that’s kind of a nitpick that can be explained by the crew having a higher budget compared to the crew of the first movie who were basically truckers in space. Michael Fassbender’s android character David is pretty interesting, however he’s the only one I liked. Not even the main character Shaw was memorable. I wouldn’t call it good, but exploring the origins of the Xenomorphs with other characters is an interesting premise that a sequel could have built upon. Key phrase being could have.

Alien: Covenant
Whatever potential the ideas from Prometheus had to be fleshed out has gone unfulfilled. It has the same problems as Prometheus but with some new ones too. The characters are uninteresting and make dumb decisions but even more so. David returns from Prometheus and is turned into some cartoonish super villain who created the Xenomorphs just because he could, killed Shaw off screen, and committed genocide on the Engineers between the two movies. The Xenomorphs and facehuggers make their return to pacify the fans who were disappointed that Prometheus had very little to do overall with the actual origins of the Xenomorphs. The best aspect is the good direction from Ridley Scott again, but it’s a very hollow movie overall and at this point I have no doubt he barely cares. The script went through some pretty heavy rewrites, and all the ideas it had before sound way more interesting than the glorified half sequel to Prometheus, half remake of Alien we got.

This is how I rank the Alien movies from best to worst:
1. Aliens
2. Alien
3. Prometheus
4. Alien: Covenant
5. Alien 3
6. Alien: Resurrection
The first two movies are amazing while the rest aren’t worth watching. Prometheus has its moments but its issues drag it down too much. After the mess that was Covenant, I have no interest in seeing any other movie made in this franchise. They should have called it quits after Aliens, at least in regards to Ellen Ripley’s story. Just watch the first two, then play the video game Alien: Isolation. It’s about Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s biological daughter who died in between the first two movies as she tries to discover the truth of her mother’s disappearance. It’s a pretty good game that actually tells a much better story than the other movies of the series.

Resident Evil REmake review

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Game played on: PS4

Released: April 30, 2002, January 20, 2015 (HD Remaster)resident-evil-remake-cover-art-gamecube-box

I don’t have any experience playing the Resident Evil games, not even the wildly acclaimed Resident Evil 4. Every time I saw the trailers and gameplay for the old and new ones, I had no interest. It didn’t look scary next to say, Silent Hill. I only decided to give the series a chance once I came to terms with the two series’ differing priorities. Silent Hill is going for a subtle, Japanese horror atmosphere, while Resident Evil, despite also being made by a Japanese company, is going for more of a B-movie, George Romero style of horror. You can prefer one over the other, but comparing the two in terms of which is better horror is unfair.

Resident Evil, a.k.a. Resident Evil REmake to the fans is a remake (obviously) of the original Resident Evil from the PS1 era to the GameCube. It was re-released over a decade later to this current generation of consoles and to PC as an HD remaster. A major benefit that this version has is the choice between the old school tank control scheme and a modern one. Now while I can adapt to tank controls, if I have a choice between them and more refined ones, I’ll choose the latter. But even if it didn’t have its new features, I would still love this game because it is one of the most gracefully aged games ever made.

Resident Evil REmake follows the original’s plot near beat for beat. The elite S.T.A.R.S. unit of the Raccoon City Police Department is called in to investigate a series of grisly murders up in the woods. After contact with one team is lost, another team is sent in to find them. They get chased into the spooky Spencer Mansion by a pack of murderous zombie dogs, the mansion is full of zombies, and the activities of the evil mega corporation Umbrella are slowly discovered through the player’s exploration of the mansion and its surrounding area by solving elaborate puzzles, evading death traps, and finding keys to unlock the mansion’s doors. If you’re looking for a well written story with complex characters, go elsewhere. It’s a cheesy, B-movie plot with corny dialogue (and voice acting to match) that you have to accept for what it is. That doesn’t mean the plot is bad, in fact I’d argue it’s good within its genre. There are good twists and the remake adds a new subplot that changes how the story plays out a bit, the characters are likable, and the pacing never goes too slow that you’re begging it to pick up or too fast that you don’t have time to breathe.

You are given the option before you start the game to play as one of two characters: Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Jill has more inventory space for items but can’t take a lot of damage, while Chris doesn’t have as much room in his inventory as Jill but can take more damage than Jill before dying. The story plays out in different ways for the characters as well. Jill’s campaign will have fan favorite Barry Burton as the main side character while Chris will have Rebecca Chambers, a medic from another team that had come earlier that can heal Chris without costing any items. I like both campaigns but I think Jill’s is the better of the two. Barry comes to her aid multiple times throughout the story, has an interesting character arc about his family, and will even save Jill’s life if you get poisoned in the first boss encounter of the game. Her campaign is also just easier for first time players and has more mystery in it on the question of who’s a traitor (even though since the original game is over two decades old I knew and so will you). Play her first, then play as Chris to get the most enjoyment since Chris will have to do some things differently from Jill over the course of the game. Depending on some choices in the game, your ending will play out differently with either a happy, bittersweet, or depressing resolution to the story.

Spencer Mansion is one of the best designed and realized settings I’ve seen in gaming. It is the setting along with Shadow Moses from the first Metal Gear Solid of how to do backtracking right.  The mansion is a character in its own right, with a history and its inhabitants history told in the letters and documents you’ll find throughout the game. The atmosphere is claustrophobic with the game’s changing camera angles that never reveal a comfortable amount of what’s next to, behind, or in front of the player, making every turn you make a dangerous one. Going through the same area never feels tedious, since the game is always throwing surprises along the way. Enemies that weren’t in a hallway before will be there later, forcing you to change your approach. Killing zombies is not always the best option, as ammo is scarce and even if you do kill them, unless you shoot the brain or burn the bodies, they will come back later even stronger and faster to make your playthrough even harder. They’re not the only enemy to worry about either, because if they don’t kill you, the mutated animals of Spencer Mansion will. Every decision you make is one that will affect you in the long and short term.

I died a lot playing this, and you can’t just die and go back to the nearest checkpoint, because there aren’t any. The game’s save system has you use type writers to save your progress at safe rooms where you can also story your items. However, to use them, you have to use ink ribbons that are of limited supply and take up inventory space, making the choice between saving your game but risking losing an opportunity to do so later, or not using your ink ribbons to save them for a later time a tough choice. If you don’t choose carefully, you’ll really put yourself in a dangerous spot like I did at one point. The mansion won’t be the only place you’ll explore, with other areas including hidden laboratories and a cabin. They all feel connected, part of a greater whole, and you’ll feel like a genuine badass as you play the game and become more familiar with the environment and the enemies’ behavior. You, and your character go from scared survivor to conquering action hero.

REmake’s sound design and music is another standout. The footsteps on the creaking stars, the thunder from outside, the moans of the undead all sound like they’re real and in your room. While I won’t rank the soundtrack as one of my favorites, it’s a good soundtrack that adds to the game’s spooky atmosphere, though I do think the game’s tensest moments during gameplay are when it has no music playing at all. Just you and a zombie slowly coming your way.

The negative aspects of this game I can name mostly have to do with when it came out. The lip synching and non game engine cutscenes haven’t aged well and the voice acting is okay if I’m being generous. It’s miles above the original’s at least and it fits with the game’s campy style. I can’t think of anything else to complain about technically wise; the game’s framerate is smooth, the load times are mercifully short, and the pre-rendered backgrounds and character models still holdup very well today. I only had one glitch that lasted for 2 seconds involving Chris disappearing in his campaign and it didn’t have any effect on my playthrough.

Resident Evil’s remake is outstanding and leagues above many games today, not just survival horror ones. People might scoff at the dumb plot, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the gameplay, level design, and atmosphere are a cut above many horror games today. It should be played at least once by gamers and is worthy of being hailed as a classic. I recommend it highly and since it’s the scariest month of the year right now it makes for a good Halloween treat.

Berserk movie trilogy retrospective part 3: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III: The Advent

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Release date: February 1, 2013


Warning: major spoilers for Berserk and discussion of graphic material

Now this is how you end a trilogy. It’s very rare that the third movie in a trilogy manages to be the best one, but what do you know, they managed to pull it off. After a disappointing start and an improved but still flawed second movie, they managed to end on a high note, albeit still with some flaws. Whatever you may say of the previous movies, you’d be hard press to call this final installment bad either as a movie or adaptation. Honestly I would argue this movie is worth watching the other two movies for, just so you aren’t lost and can have more emotional investment in the story and characters. This is what the previous films have been building up to. Griffith’s destiny is finally realized, the Hawks are permanently lost, and Guts swears revenge on Griffith for his abominable betrayal.

This is the movie the other ones have been building up to. Longtime fans were dreading it from the beginning, and new fans likely had no idea what was coming. Here is the plot and major, major spoilers. You ready?

Guts and the Band of the Hawk reunite after a year, and he and Casca end up fully expressing the growing feelings that had been building between them since the last movie. After making love, Guts is warned by an undead rider known as Skull Knight of a coming disaster that he will not be able to escape, but Guts is unable to understand what he means. Afterword, the Hawks go on a rescue operation to save Griffith from imprisonment, but arrive far too late. Griffith is broken in mind and body. His tendons are severed, his tongue has been cut out, and his face has been horrifically disfigured. He will never become the kind he has dreamed of being since he was a child. Once they escape, and the gravity of the situation becomes acknowledged by everyone, Casca says she’ll stay behind with Griffith while Guts leaves to become Griffith’s equal. Unknown to them, Griffith hears all of this, and distraught that the man he cares so much for is leaving him again, he breaks completely. He takes a carriage and runs away, but doesn’t get far before being thrown off and crippled further. He tries to commit suicide, but can’t even do that. Griffith completely sinks into despair, but as if destined by fate, finds his Behelit. When the Behelit comes into contact with his blood, it turns into a crying face, and he, Guts, Casca, and the other Hawks are teleported to a hellish dimension. Here, four demonic entities known as the Godhand reveal that this is an event called “The Eclipse” and this is Griffith’s true destiny, that he is destined to sacrifice his friend and comrades and be reborn as their fifth member. Griffith, rationalizing that he has come too far to give up, and if he doesn’t he will become the very sort of desperate survivor that he despises. After mulling it over for a brief period, he looks at Guts, admits to himself that he really did see him as more than just a soldier, and sacrifices them. The Hawks, save for Guts and Casca die and are devoured by demons in a horrific bloodbath. When only Guts and Casca remain, Griffith emerges from his cocoon as the new member of the Godhand named Femto. Femto descends to Guts’ level, orders some demons to bring Casca to him, and rapes her while forcing his best friend to watch. Guts tries to save her, costing him his left arm and right eye, but he fails. Just when all seems lost, Skull Knight arrives and saves them. Four days later, Guts awakens from being passed out from exhaustion and trauma, only to find the events of The Eclipse have driven Casca insane. Guts vows war upon demonkind to avenge his friends and Casca. The movie ends with Guts donning his iconic Black Swordsman getup, and going off to slay monsters.

Compared to the other movies, and especially The Battle for Doldrey, The Advent is much more subdued and less large in scope. The majority of the movie is spent with just the characters interacting with each other, as they come to grips with their horrible situation, and old bonds are both reforged and broken. This is easily the most emotional of the movies, and captures the human and tragic spirit of Berserk more than any other. Big thanks should go to the voice cast, who put in their best work yet. Everyone shows off impressive range, from anger, sadness, despair, happiness, the whole emotional spectrum. Jon Avner as Void, one of the members of the Godhand, is only in the film for a short while, but his appearance will leave an unforgettable impression. This is also has the best usage of music in the trilogy. Shiro Sagisu and Susumu Hirasawa once again deliver and then some, providing what I feel are some of the best musical tracks in any Berserk adaptation. The music ranges from epic, dark and grandiose for epic scenes like the horror of The Eclipse, to calm and understated during the film’s quiet moments. A perfect example is the love scene between Guts and Casca, with just a flute playing in the background.

It really is The Advent’s quiet scenes that where it truly shines for me. It’s these scenes that are the best done adaptation wise between it and the 90s anime. Casca lashing out at Guts for leaving the Hawks, thus inadvertently causing Griffith to act recklessly and cause the Hawks downfall, and Casca explaining to the Hawks that Griffith is crippled beyond repair and it will never get better for them, happens with absolutely no music playing at all. Now it’s not perfect, with some poorly handled CGI, but the voice acting, 2D, and sheer atmosphere of scenes like these that make them work so well.

Of course, how The Eclipse is handled needs to be touched on as well. It’s the most important event in the movie and in Berserk in general. It’s one of the most gory, tragic, bloody, nightmarish events I’ve ever seen in an anime or manga, and The Advent’s version of it is faithful in all ways imaginable. It is the bloodiest thing you will ever see. If you can’t handle intense gore and violence, then you shouldn’t even bother with this movie or series. One scene that is completely unique to the movie, and proves without a doubt proves the naysayers of the movies wrong in that these are bad adaptations, is Griffith’s metamorphosis into Femto. The animation style changes completely from the traditional into a painterly like style, meant to represent that Griffith is moving beyond the human plain and is becoming another being completely divorced from our senses. It’s surreal and genuinely creepy. Between this and the 1997 anime’s representation of The Eclipse, while the 97 anime follows events more closely to the events as they were drawn from the manga, The Advent better captures the violent and tragic nature of The Eclipse, and makes some new events that better serve its medium.

So what does The Advent do wrong? Well aside from the CGI still looking misplaced (though it is much better now and the focus is brought back to 2D animation), the romance between Guts and Casca doesn’t feel as strong as it did in the manga and 90s anime, due to the cuts made for time on scenes between the characters throughout the trilogy. One character moment between Guts and Casca that was left out that is especially disappointing. In the manga, after making love, Guts breaks down over being molested as a child, until Casca hugs him and says he can open his heart to her without shame. It’s one of the most emotional moments in the entire series, and this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that in the first movie a flashback is shown of Guts being raped as a child. It’s a genuinely wasted opportunity on the part of the creative team. It also ends on yet another cliffhanger. Now it’s an ending with much more resolution than the original anime’s was, but like the original anime, we’ll never see the rest since due to diminishing financial returns, the other planned movies were cancelled.

The Advent is easily the best film in the entire trilogy and any fan of Berserk should watch it. So as a whole, how does this trilogy fare? Well it was definitely flawed, with its cutting of completely perfect plot threads and overuse of CGI, especially in the first movie. Adapting such a monumental manga like Berserk was always going to be a challenge, and adapting it to movie theaters even more so due to the time constraints they were under. And yet, there is still more good than bad here. By the third film they clearly has gotten a hang of adapting the source material, and even in the first film you can see the spirit of Berserk in it. There was clearly a lot of love and heart put into these films, and it’s a genuine tragedy that we won’t get to see more of them, especially in light of the 2016 and 2017 Berserk anime adaptations. I haven’t watched them in full but I’ve seen an episode and… well let’s just say you’re better off first watching the movies and then reading the manga, and if you want another adaptation, watch the 1997 anime. Warts and all, these movies deserved better than just getting unceremoniously cancelled.

Well this retrospective was a lot of fun. It was really interesting to look at these movies both on their own terms, and as adaptations of Berserk. I hope that anyone reading enjoyed and that I managed to at least convince one person to both check out Berserk in general and the trilogy.

Berserk movie trilogy retrospective part 2: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Release date: June 23, 2012


Warning: Major spoilers for Berserk

This a movie that is overall an improvement over the first movie, which was just average overall. Here we see a greater understanding of how to make a more competent adaptation and capture the more important qualities of Berserk, which is why as an adaptation Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey manages to deeper examine the characters of the cast and ends with the beginning of their end, and it’s also just a good movie on its own.

This movie covers the events titled “Battle for Doldrey”, the siege of an impenetrable castle that Griffith and the Band of the Hawk manage to capture and end the Hundred Years War between Midland and Chuder, and Guts leaving the Band of the Hawk to pursue his own dream to become Griffith’s equal and be seen as a true friend in his eyes, thus beginning events that would lead to Griffith’s and the Hawks’ downfall.
The most important improvement The Golden Age Arc II makes is deepening the personalities of its characters. We learn about why Casca is so devoted to Griffith, and her behavior in the previous movie begins to make more sense, as she was jealous of the attention Guts was getting from Griffith. Guts himself begins to stretch his wings more, wondering why he’s fighting in his famous internal monologue where he is slaying over a hundred enemies while wondering what his own motives are to fight. Griffith gets more explanation into his motives too, where after Doldrey has been claimed, it is revealed he slept with a pedophiliac lord in order to get funds so his men would get better equipment, and says that the only way he can repay the lives his men have given is to fulfill his dream. He then kills the nobleman so that his secret won’t get out. It doesn’t always work though, due to some events being cut from the movie such as the King of Midland trying to rape his daughter. When tortured by the king after Griffith is discovered to have slept with the princess, Griffith mocks with disgust how the king lusts for his daughter, but this scene is never followed up on nor does the movie explain the king’s lust, which the original manga did by explaining that the Princess Charlotte resembles his dead first wife. The original anime actually cut the subplot out entirely, thus avoiding any awkward scene placement. One subplot completely cut out by the film left in the anime and manga was the Queen of Midland conspiring to kill Griffith, until Griffith retaliates by kidnapping the also omitted Minister Foss’s daughter and blackmailing him into compliance. This showed Griffith, despite his likability is also utterly ruthless and will go to any lengths to fulfill his ambition. It also had Griffith asking Guts if he was a bad person, with Guts reassuring Griffith that it was all okay if he got closer to his dream.

One big change character wise as an adaptation this movie makes is the introduction of characters from later down the manga’s story. Characters named Farnese, Serpico, and Puck make cameos near and at the end of the movie, and are clearly shown to be important to newcomers due to their unique designs compared to the other extras. For longtime fans this is definitely nice fanservice, but it might be distracting to others. It doesn’t last long though so it doesn’t feel shoved down your throat.

The movie also feels much more complete this time around. While there are still scenes that are reduced to showing and not telling, such as when you’re only told Griffith slept with the lord, and not shown it like in the manga and anime, and Casca’s backstory is cut down more simply to tell her story of Griffith saving her life, it comes across as much more natural. The studio even had some clever ideas as to how to get around some of the changes they had to make, like when Guts is fighting General Bascogn of the Chuder army. In the original manga and anime, Zodd threw Guts a sword from the distance, like divine intervention in Guts’ favor to win the battle. They weren’t able to animate the scene properly, so they decided to change it to Guts thinking of a new strategy on the fly. While it’s a shame that the badass Zodd didn’t make an appearance and serve as very ominous foreshadowing of the larger powers at play in the world of Berserk, their solution was pretty decent. The movie’s cuts also create another issue when months after the Hawks have reached the height of their goals, Guts leaves to find his own dream and be seen as an equal in Griffith’s eyes. Guts tells both Casca and the other major Hawk members this in the anime and manga, but here Guts is just shown implying it to Casca. It’s an admittedly minor issue compared to the first movie’s timeline related plot hole, and I was able to fill in the blanks, but I’m sure they could’ve animated a scene of Casca telling the other Hawks Guts’ intentions.

More good news is that the balance between the CGI and 2D animation is much better in this film. Bad news is that it still isn’t quite right, and the quality of the animation styles individually are still the same. The 2D backgrounds and character models are still beautiful and the CGI animation still looks choppy and bad and can take you out of the film at major moments like the Gut’s fight in the forest and the titled Battle of Doldrey itself. And that goes for the rest of the movie too. The voice acting is still great and the music is still great. All these elements really become obvious during two scenes: the ballroom scene where Griffith and Hawks are granted nobility and Guts’ duel with Griffith. In the ballroom scene, the voice actors show off excellent range, the 2D is awe inspiring and the music is beautiful, but every time the CGI shows up it takes you right out of it. Guts’ duel with Griffith is easily my favorite scene in the film. It’s all in 2D, the only sound is the wind blowing in the air kicking up the snow. The two men are silent, we see their eyes meet each other and hear Griffith thinking “Do you want to leave this badly?… No. You’re not leaving. I won’t allow it.” They swing their swords, the dust settles, and we see Guts has won this time. Words can’t do it justice how well done this scene is. It’s another solid point in the movie’s favor as an adaptation, and just a movie I general. The aftermath is just as well done in its own right, where Griffith makes the tragic mistake of sleeping with Charlotte the princess, is caught and sentenced to be tortured for the rest of his life, the Hawks are branded traitors, and Guts is shown walking off on his own journey, unaware of what has befallen his comrades. It’s a way better cliffhanger than the previous movie’s.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II is definitely an improvement over the first film. The filmmakers clearly learned lessons from the failures of the last movie. It’s still not without its fair share of shortcomings though. The third film is where this trilogy finally got its groove on, and showed that more movies like these could’ve done the series justice.

Berserk movie trilogy retrospective part 1: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Release date: February 4, 2012



Warning: Major Spoilers for Berserk

Berserk is one of the most acclaimed manga of all time, from the mind of mangaka Kentaro Miura. It tells the story of Guts, the “Black Swordsman” and his quest for revenge on the man who betrayed him and their comrades and the woman he loves Casca, his former best friend Griffith. It is notoriously violent and dark, but also has some of the best artwork of any manga and the most emotional moments of any fictional story, with each character feeling like a real person with all the complexities and darkness that implies. It has been running since 1989, and has since been heralded as a masterpiece of storytelling, influenced other manga titles, and been adapted to both the big and small screen. The first adaptation aired in 1997 as a 25 episode long anime series, and save for the first episode, covered the manga’s famous Golden Age Arc, which told the origins of Guts and Griffith, their friendship, and falling out. While needing to tone down the graphic violence and sexual content of the manga for TV, having lackluster animation, and ending on a notorious cliffhanger that basically told readers to read the manga to find out what happens, the anime managed to capture the original’s spirit and themes of friendship, fate, and examination of the human spirit and many consider it to still be the best adaptation of Berserk to date and a masterpiece in its own right. Me personally, while I have watched a good deal of it and it holds up in many areas, it’s also shown its age in others. I am one of the people who got into Berserk through the movie trilogy that covers The Golden Age Arc. My hope for this retrospective is to while acknowledge their shortcomings as movies and adaptations, also show they are still worth watching and in fact can be the best gateway into the series for newcomers.
This trilogy has always been controversial amongst fans of Berserk because while boasting higher production values, being movies, many events in the manga that the anime covered either had to be cut entirely or told in another manner for the sake of time. It is certainly a flawed trilogy, as I’ll point out, and the first installment The Egg of the King is easily the weakest one.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King has the most signs of being a rough first step to establishing a trilogy. The movie’s plot specifically adapts the beginning portions of the Golden Age Arc, ending at the famous scene of Guts hearing Griffith’s speech about friendship and dreams to Princess Charlotte. At only 77 minutes, there are a number of scenes relating to characterization and motivation that had to be cut or skimmed over. Guts’ traumatic childhood for example, is only briefly shown in a dreamy flashback that lasts for at most just over a minute. It even included Guts being molested by the pedophiliac soldier Donovan. In the manga and anime, even this early on into the arc Guts’ past played a powerful motivator for his personality and actions. In skimming it over, Guts loses a sense of depth that sets him apart from other antiheroes. In fact many key characters in general are either cut or their personalities are softened. Griffith, while still retaining his charisma and ruthlessness in court politics comes off as just a little less manipulative and more sincere. His romance with the Princess Charlotte in the manga and anime was clearly shown to be completely one sided on Charlotte’s part, with Griffith just playing along to get closer to his desired throne. Here, it actually comes off as Griffith and Charlotte mutually falling in love with each other. The later movies do nothing to dissuade this idea. To some Griffith being a more overtly likable character might be a plus, but what makes Griffith such a compelling character is the fact that even though his manipulations are borderline sociopathic at times, his charisma is so undeniable, his goal of ruling a kingdom seems so pure and he expresses genuine moments of conscience with Guts so that one can’t help but root for him. Casca also comes off as even more standoffish and antagonistic towards Guts, with scenes that could’ve eased the blow not being present. Other characters, if not softened are cut entirely, such is the case with the devious Minister Foss, a character that played the game of politics against Griffith throughout The Golden Age arc in the manga and anime. The pacing is clearly rushed due to too much being cut and not enough left in. And the movie’s attempts at having both action, supernatural horror, and political intrigue are very clumsy and uneven. Which is all the more disappointing since both the source material does this extremely well and the trilogy’s writer, Ichiro Okouchi, also wrote the script and story of one of my favorite anime of all time, Code Geass, a series that I also consider to be an example of how to juggle multiple themes and genres extremely well.

All that that being said, one thing this movie does cut out that I think was a great idea, was the in media rias beginning of the manga and anime. I won’t spoil anything that is not in this first movie, but it’s always bothered me that Berserk the manga and anime began in the middle of the story and practically give away the conflict between Guts and Griffith. Here, the story just begins with Guts as a mercenary in the middle of a battle, thus making what happens all the more horrifying and tragic.

It’s a movie that is more concerned with world building and establishing characters rather than also exploring the characters. This ends up creating one annoying plot hole later in the film, when after the three year time skip we get the scene where Guts asks Griffith about his Behelit, the supernatural necklace Griffith wears around his neck. Now in the anime and manga, Guts asked Griffith about it much sooner after he was forcibly conscripted into the Band of the Hawk in one of the most subtext laden scenes ever created, which makes a lot more sense plot wise. I mean why would Guts just pop that question after three long years of being aware of the Behelit’s existence?

But being a high budget movie, it should at least have higher production values than the original anime right? Well yes. And no. Make no mistake, when the animation is good, it is spectacular. The 2D character models and backgrounds are simply gorgeous and rival the manga’s equally amazingly detailed artwork. It is undeniably a point the movies have over the 90s anime and the 2D will likely age much better than the original anime’s low budget animation has. Unfortunately the mistake was made of incorporating CGI into the animation. Now CGI is simply a tool that is only as good as the wielder, so CGI itself doesn’t inherently ruin a movie. But the attempts to blend CGI with the 2D animation and fight scenes just takes you right out of the experience. It looks choppy at best and bad at worst. The big battle at the beginning of the movie is easily the worst offender of this. Scenes of great 2D animation are then cut to scenes of clumsy, stiff CGI. It’s “what the hell were they thinking” levels of bad.

One area these movies were always consistently great in was the soundtrack and voice acting. Holy shit. This soundtrack. Is. EPIC! The original anime’s soundtrack was a masterclass in its own right and all three movies stepped up to the plate of delivering a soundtrack worthy of Berserk. The soundtrack was done by the man behind the 90s anime’s Susumu Hirasawa and Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Shiro Sagisu. The opening credits of each movie played to a song that just oozes Berserk while the credits mix movie scenes with artwork from the original manga. It reminds me of how Marvel superhero movies will open with some snippets of artwork from their comics with the logo popping up. The rest of the music range from soft uplifting piano pieces that create a calming atmosphere to bombastic for the action and more intensely emotional scenes that remind the audience that the world of Berserk is a dark and brutal place despite the beauty you can find in it. As for the voice acting, it is well above average here. I watched this and the other two movies in English. Yeah call me a plebian but the English dub for these movies is very good, better than the original anime and reaches great levels in the third one. The main characters of Guts, Griffith and Casca have their original English voice actors Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, and Carrie Keranen (also the English voice actress for Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill) from the 1997 anime return, and they all show how far they’ve come since then. Collins as Griffith is in my opinion the best of the cast, managing to convey the character’s manipulative nature while also keeping him sympathetic. But if you do want to watch in Japanese with English subtitles the Japanese voices are very good as well.

So how does the first installment of The Golden Age Arc trilogy stand overall? It’s okay. For everything it does wrong it does something right. While definitely having impressive production values, the characters and rushed pacing end up making you feel like there’s a lot you’re missing out on. I can still recommend it, if only because you’d be lost if you skipped it to watch the other two movies instead. That would be an awful idea, in fact flaws and all as I said before this is probably the best way to introduce yourself to Berserk since the ending of the arc is no longer basically given away by the story.

Metro 2033 review

Developed by: 4A Games

Published by: THQ, Deep Silver (Metro 2033 Redux)

Game played on: PC

Released on: March 16, 2010, August 26, 2014 (Metro 2033 Redux)metro 2033

My companion Khan tells me to stop. I obey, after all, he knows this tunnel better than I do. We see a floating ball of electricity go by. Khan says as long as we remain still, it can’t detect us. This is just one of many strange natural phenomenon you will encounter in the world of Metro 2033.

Originally released on March 16, 2010 in North America, Metro 2033 is a post-apocalyptic first person shooter adapted from a Russian post-apocalyptic novel written by author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It takes place in Moscow in the aftermath of a global nuclear war, where the survivors have taken refuge in the underground metro tunnels, with the surface world being in a state of nuclear winter, inhabited by monsters created by the radiation, and the air is impossible to breathe without gas masks. Your playable character is Artyom, just a normal resident of his metro station. The society of the metro comes under siege by a completely new species known as “The Dark Ones”, creatures with psychic powers that leave their victims insane, then dead. Artyom must go on a quest to the station of Polis, where a group of elite soldiers who protect the metro’s citizens known as the Rangers reside to enlist their aid. On his journey, Artyom must face the dangers created by the post nuclear world he lives in, whether it be Nazis or abnormal beings that can only be described as supernatural. I own, but have not read the book in full, so I can’t speak on how faithful the game is to the original source material. Also, I did not play the original Metro 2033, but the remake titled Metro 2033 Redux released for current gen consoles in the Metro Redux pack. It gives the visuals a tremendous update, fixes issues with the stealth and AI, gives you two different modes to play: Spartan and Survival (favoring an action experience and the game’s original survival elements and horror tone respectively), and adds collectible journal entries by Artyom scattered throughout levels. I would consider it the definitive version of the game.

Metro 2033 is the kind of game that is unique, takes risks, that there should be more like, yet is also flawed in key areas that can dampen an otherwise amazing experience. An experience that it owes almost entirely to the game’s utterly superb atmosphere.
Metro 2033 is an atmospheric experience that sucks you in from the beginning, and doesn’t let you go until the very end. The usage of lighting, shadow, and ambient noises made me feel like I was in the tunnels of the metro themselves. The atmosphere isn’t just confined to the underground, as the snow covered, toxic surface of ruined Moscow is just as engrossing. Wind howls and snow blows across the city while flying mutants known as “demons” soar across the sky, picking up any unfortunate scavenger that crosses their path to devour. The setting of ruined Moscow is extremely refreshing, as the Russian architecture gives a foreboding feel I haven’t otherwise felt in a post-apocalyptic story in any medium. The game’s story is one that weaves the other worldly threat of the Dark Ones with a subtle moral ambiguity. Without giving any spoilers, Metro asks you not to make any assumptions about anything, and to come to your own conclusions about your antagonists. Good and evil are no longer cut and dry in the new world. Usually, it is simply people trying to survive long enough that day to make it to the next. This ties into the game’s binary, yet compelling morality system. There are “good” and “bad” choices, but determining which is which is can be a challenge, and both of the game’s endings have an air of doubt and uncertainty lingering in them, never letting you settle on whether the right decision was made. That being said, it is held back at times because some of the “good” choices involve simply stopping and listening to conversations in the game’s hub stations where you can by ammo and other supplies. Given some of the confusing layout of these stations, finding conversations can be tricky, and you’ll likely miss a few. Getting the good ending will probably require a second playthrough, as you’re more likely to get the bad one the first time around.

2033’s human population has created a completely new society underground, with admirable detail given to the activities and lives of its people. Little touches such as a couple arguing and a child pestering his father make all the difference in giving the NPCs of 2033 humanity. This can be seen in your human enemies as well, even the Nazis. While sneaking in the shadows, you will often hear conversations between NPC soldiers, talking about home, family, what they’re going to do for fun, and other topics that will make you think twice about pulling the trigger. An important feature of the new society that pops up both in story and gameplay is the currency system of military grade ammunition. Military ammo is now the commodity used in place of money for the trading of goods, and this will has the potential to put players in interesting situations in their playtime. Do you save your military ammo for later to trade for weapons, air filters, etc., or do you use some of the ammo to inflict extra damage on enemies in place of the less effective metro bullets at the cost of literally throwing your money away?

Resource conservation is an extremely important part of 2033’s gameplay, as supplies are scarce. Players need to conserve their ammo, recharge their flashlight batteries, and watch how many air filters they have for their gas masks and change them when they run out of air. This and the game’s claustrophobic atmosphere make Metro feel a lot like a survival horror game, including confronting humanity’s capacity for cruelty, supernatural locations and visions, and other moments of terror that disempower players rather than make them feel like an all powerful hero. It never becomes unfairly difficult however, because as long as I fired in bursts, and used the appropriate weapon at the appropriate range, I more often than not had enough ammo to survive the next encounter. Another way to conserve your ammo is taking the stealthy approach to human enemies. Crouching and staying away from light sources will ensure the player is hidden as long as enemies weren’t prior made aware of their presence, and Artyom has a tiny bulb on his watch that indicates to the player whether he is visible or not. It can be aggravating however, since the game doesn’t always tell the player whether or not they’re completely visible, or just partially and they still have time to hide. And in order to knock out or kill enemies silently, players need to get up close to enemies, and the game did not always give me the option of knocking them out, forcing me to use my silenced pistol to ruin and otherwise non-lethal stealth run. Also frustrating was the lack of a lean function, which forced me to walk right out of cover in order to see exactly where guards were.

So Metro 2033 is certainly a very good atmospheric game, and it is also (all things considered) a good shooter. Every weapon, from submachine guns to air rifles are designed with insane levels of detail down to the reloading animation and bullet casings. There’s also a fairly detailed customization system, where you can choose whether to put a night vision scope, a red dot sight, a silencer, or an extension barrel on your gun to fit your playstyle. Some attachments and guns are more useful than others however, such as the fact you’ll likely never want to use a submachine gun ever again after picking up an AK-47. Enemies also suffer a bad case of bullet sponge syndrome, where even some unarmored enemies can take a high amount of punishment before dying. It can end up causing you to drop your guard when there’s still one more enemy who isn’t quite dead yet.

The final aspect of Metro that deserves nothing less than unqualified praise is its delicious soundtrack. It can go from goose bump inducing in one moment, then minimalistic the next. A lone guitar being used may seem minimal, but it can make all the difference. Just as important is when the game has the wisdom to not use it, instead letting the environment and ambient noises set the atmosphere.

I played Metro 2033 on Normal difficulty in Survival mode, since the game was always meant as an atmospheric FPS game with horror and survival elements. Normal difficulty was certainly not easy, but towards the later stages of the game I wasn’t too hard pressed for air filters and ammo. This could probably be attributed to the fact this is my second time playing Metro 2033 Redux. First time players should play on Normal, while more experienced players should increase the difficulty to more challenging levels. The game’s framerate ran smoothly with no texture pop in on my laptop, but I did have one crash in my entire playtime. Lastly, there is an option to play the game with English and Russian voice acting. While I personally thought the English voice acting to be competent, I can see it becoming annoying to some other people, so the option for a potentially more authentic experience is there. Be warned however, that some of the background conversations are not subtitled, so you will miss potentially interesting conversations.

So Metro 2033 is a game that doesn’t do everything right, but what it does do right, very few other games do better. I am grateful that it managed to get a sequel, and that the original game was remade to iron out any of the more glaring flaws the original may have had. It can be intimidating at first, but please give this game a chance.